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The Railway Series is a series of children's books about the railways of the fictional Island of Sodor. The books were created by the Reverend W. Awdry, who wrote the first stories in 1943. He penned twenty-six books from 1945 to 1972. A further sixteen books were written by his son Christopher Awdry. The final book in the series, Thomas and his Friends, was published in 2011.

The series formed the basis for Thomas & Friends, with many of its books and stories being adapted for television.



In 1942, Wilbert Awdry's son Christopher had measles and was confined to bed. To prevent their son getting bored, Wilbert and his wife Margaret Awdry told him stories and nursery rhymes. Most of them eventually lost their entertainment value, but one that continually appealed to Christopher was the rhyme "Down by the Station". Wilbert subsequently drew a picture of several engines standing in a row based on the rhyme and for fun gave them faces with various expressions. One sad-looking engine appealed to Christopher, as it shared his mood and he asked what his name was. Wilbert replied with the first to come to his head: Edward. Through a series of questions and answers, the story of Edward's Day Out was created. Eventually, Christopher began asking for more stories and Awdry obliged him with "Edward and Gordon" and "The Sad Story of Henry", the latter being inspired by another rhyme he was fond of. Christopher would constantly ask for the stories to be retold, even after he recovered and to ensure consistency between tellings, Wilbert wrote them down on the back of old church circulars.

Margaret Awdry also liked the stories and told her husband to get them published, as she felt they were better than most children's books in circulation. Awdry was reluctant, but Margaret persisted and mentioned the stories in a letter to Wilbert's mother, Lucy, who replied that she knew the author Michael Barsley and asked that the stories be sent to her so she could forward them to him. At Margaret's insistence, Wilbert did so. Barsley's attempts to find a publisher were unsuccessful, so he showed the stories to his agent, Edith Ray Gregorson, who liked them and agreed to pursue the matter further. Her attempts to find a publisher were initially no more successful, as most were suffering paper shortages due to the Second World War, but in September 1943, Edmund Ward agreed to publish them, though refused to commit to a publication date, to Wilbert's annoyance. In October, Ward wrote to say that the stories would be published as one book entitled "The Three Railway Engines", but that he required rough sketches for his illustrator to base his pictures on and a fourth story to finish off the book. While Awdry was annoyed at the requests, since Ward had already rejected his drawings, he agreed and wrote "Edward, Gordon and Henry". While it was hoped this would speed up publication, the book was not published until 12th May 1945. The book was an immediate commercial success, quickly selling out its initial print run of 22,500 copies and going through two more by the end of the year. Awdry, while happy to see his book in print, was disappointed in the illustrations by William Middleton.




Rev. W. Awdry

Cover Title Published No. #
[1] The Three Railway Engines 12th May 1945 #01
Edward is let out of his shed, Gordon runs into trouble with some trucks and Henry is shut up in a tunnel for being vain.
[2] Thomas the Tank Engine 18th October 1946 #02
A station pilot named Thomas longs to leave his yard to go out and see the world and has several adventures.
[3] James the Red Engine 1948 #03
James, the new engine on the Fat Controller's Railway, gets into trouble and tries to make up for his mistakes.
[4] Tank Engine Thomas Again 1949 #04
Thomas has many adventures on his new branch line and meets two new friends named Terence and Bertie.
[5] Troublesome Engines September 1950 #05
When Gordon, Henry and James begin to behave badly and go on strike, a new tank engine named Percy is brought to help out.
[6] Henry the Green Engine 1951 #06
Henry proves his worth to the Fat Controller, in spite of his illness and is finally cured.
[7] Toby the Tram Engine 1952 #07
A steam tram named Toby comes to Sodor with his faithful coach, Henrietta, to help the Fat Controller after his old tramway closes down.
[8] Gordon the Big Engine 1953 #08
Gordon is in disgrace after landing in trouble with the Fat Controller, but manages to pull his act together in time for a royal visit.
[9] Edward the Blue Engine 1954 #09
Edward is getting old, but proves he has plenty of life left in him.
[10] Four Little Engines 1955 #10
While Rheneas is away at the works, The Skarloey Railway engines work together to keep their line running. Two new engines also arrive to help out.
[11] Percy the Small Engine 1956 #11
Percy is fed-up of being ordered about and gets a chance to shine when he is reallocated to Thomas' Branch Line.
[12] The Eight Famous Engines 1957 #12
Already famous for their adventures on Sodor, the Fat Controller's engines take a trip to England.
[13] Duck and the Diesel Engine 1958 #13
Duck becomes suspicious when a devious diesel comes to Sodor and blames him for causing trouble.
[14] The Little Old Engine 1959 #14
Skarloey returns to Sodor and finds out that things have changed on his little railway.
[15] The Twin Engines 1960 #15
Donald and Douglas, two well-meaning Scottish goods engines, create confusion for the Fat Controller when he only expects one engine.
[16] Branch Line Engines 1961 #16
Thomas has an accident and a lazy diesel railcar named Daisy comes to Sodor to fill in for him, but only causes more trouble.
[17] Gallant Old Engine 1962 #17
The Skarloey Railway prepares for Rheneas' return.
[18] Stepney the "Bluebell" Engine 1963 #18
Stepney, an engine from the Bluebell Railway, pays a visit to the Island of Sodor and its engines.
[19] Mountain Engines 1964 #19
Culdee returns to the Mountain Railway and Lord Harry makes up for a silly mistake.
[20] Very Old Engines 1965 #20
Skarloey and Rheneas recall their early days and celebrate their 100th anniversary.
[21] Main Line Engines 1966 #21
Bill and Ben play a trick on a new diesel, Gordon and James get into silly mishaps and Edward pulls through to bring his passengers home.
[22] Small Railway Engines 1967 #22
Three miniature gauge engines - RexBert and Mike - come to Sodor to work on a new railway.
[23] Enterprising Engines 4th October 1968 #23
special visitor comes to Sodor, twodiesels are put on trial and Douglas rescues a steam engine from the cutter's torch.
[24] Oliver the Western Engine 15th November 1969 #24
Oliver, the new Great Western engine on the Little Western, gets into trouble when his overconfidence gets the better of him.
[25] Duke the Lost Engine 15th October 1970 #25
Peter Sam and Sir Handel recall their old days on the Mid Sodor Railway and a search begins to find Duke.
[26] Tramway Engines 15th October 1972 #26
Thomas and Percy get in a quarrel and a new diesel shunter named Mavis causes trouble for Toby.

These volumes were later compiled into Thomas the Tank Engine: The Complete CollectionThe Complete Collection compilations were released by various publishers in different years and countries, all containing the same 26 volumes.

The Reverend W. Awdry planned to call his twenty-seventh volume Really Useful Engines, but he never got to use it following his retirement. Completely by coincidence, Christopher Awdry's first publication had this title.

Christopher Awdry

Cover Title Published No. #
[27] Really Useful Engines 12th September 1983 #27
Life on the Fat Controller's Railway is far from dull.
[28] James and the Diesel Engines 17th September 1984 #28
James is still convinced that diesels are not very useful, but slowly learns to put his prejudices behind him.
[29] Great Little Engines 28th October 1985 #29
Sir Handel visits the Talyllyn Railway.
[30] More About Thomas the Tank Engine 22nd September 1986 #30
Thomas and Percy fall out after an accident, but manage to make up for it.
[31] Gordon the High-Speed Engine 7th September 1987 #31
Gordon tries to prove that he can be just as fast as the new high-speed diesels and Pip and Emma visit the railway for the first time.
[32] Toby, Trucks and Trouble 19th September 1988 #32
Percy and Toby run the branch line and Mavis has an accident with a lorry.
[33] Thomas and the Twins 11th September 1989 #33
Thomas must work on Edward's Branch Line for the time being and meets Bill and Ben while he is there.
[34] Jock the New Engine 6th August 1990 #34
A boastful new engine called Jock starts work on the Arlesdale Railway.
[35] Thomas and the Great Railway Show 12th August 1991 #35
Thomas travels to the Mainland to attend a grand railway exhibition at the National Railway Museum.
[36] Thomas Comes Home 15th June 1992 #36
Percy, Toby and Daisy must manage the branch line while Thomas is away in England.
[37] Henry and the Express 8th April 1993 #37
Henry is feeling ill again and must go to the Works for an overhaul.
[38] Wilbert the Forest Engine 8th August 1994 #38
Wilbert is called in from the Dean Forest Railway to help the Ffarquhar Branch Line engines and Donald and Douglas.
[39] Thomas and the Fat Controller's Engines 1st August 1995 #39
The engines prepare for the fiftieth anniversary of The Railway Series.
[40] New Little Engine 8th August 1996 #40
new engine is built for the Skarloey Railway.
[41] Thomas and Victoria 3rd September 2007 #41
The Fat Controller has an old coach named Victoria renovated to help Toby on the branch line.
[42] Thomas and his Friends 6th July 2011 #42
The Thin Clergyman's centenary is celebrated and Pip and Emma become permanent members of the North Western Railway.

Volumes 27-41 were compiled into Thomas the Tank Engine: The New Collection

  • Another Railway Series book titled Barry the Rescue Engine was also being written by Christopher Awdry, but was cancelled and replaced with Thomas and the Fat Controller's Engines.

Other Books

Cover Title Writer Published
[43] Thomas's Christmas Party Rev. W. Awdry 29th October 1984
Thomas wants to hold a special Christmas party for Mrs. Kyndley. Unfortunately, Mrs. Kyndley's house is snowed in.
[44] Thomas Comes to Breakfast Rev. W. Awdry 2nd September 1985
Thomas thinks that he can manage without his driver, until he makes an unexpected visit to the stationmaster's house one morning.
[45] Thomas and the Missing Christmas Tree Christopher Awdry 20th October 1986
Thomas is sent to collect a Christmas tree, but when he ends up getting lost along the way home, Donald and Douglas set off to rescue him in time for the Christmas celebrations.
[46] Thomas and the Evil Diesel Christopher Awdry 5th October 1987
Diesel returns to Sodor to help out on Thomas' branch line and manages to redeem himself after causing trouble.
[47] Thomas and Gordon Off the Rails Rev. W. Awdry 3rd September 1990
Gordon decides to jam the turntable to prove a point, but his attempt makes him slide into a ditch. Thomas goes to a lead mine to collect some trucks but foolishly passes a danger board and falls down a mine.
[48] Thomas and the Hurricane Christopher Awdry 16th March 1992
Thomas and his friends deal with the aftermath of a hurricane.


From 1979 to 1980, annuals were written by the Rev. W. Awdry and from 1985 to 1996 by Christopher Awdry. In some cases, these stories expanded upon earlier Railway Series books. In others they were entirely new and some stories were later rewritten and used as Railway Series stories.

Pop-Up Books

Several Pop-Up books were released based on various Railway Series stories from previous books.

  1. The Flying Kipper and Henry the Green Engine (W. Awdry, 1983)
  2. Bertie the Bus and Thomas the Tank Engine (W. Awdry, 1983)
  3. Thomas the Tank Engine and the Tractor (W. Awdry, 1984)
  4. Henry the Green Engine and the Elephant (W. Awdry, 1984)
  5. Henry the Green Engine Gets Out (W. Awdry, 1984)
  6. James the Red Engine and the Troublesome Trucks (W. Awdry, 1984)
  7. Thomas the Tank Engine Goes Fishing (W. Awdry, 1986)
  8. Percy the Small Engine Takes the Plunge (W. Awdry, 1986)
  9. James the Red Engine and the Signal (C. Awdry, 1994)
  10. Percy the Small Engine and the Scarf (W. Awdry, 1995)
  11. Thomas the Tank Engine Catches a Thief (C. Awdry, 1995)
  12. Thomas the Tank Engine and the Scrambled Eggs (C. Awdry, 1995)

Mini/Board/Sticker books

There have been several Railway Series-related books published which were written by the Awdrys. These books were illustrated by Ken StottTony Wells and Edgar Hodges.

  1. James and the Balloons
  2. Percy and the Kite
  3. Thomas and the Birthday Party
  4. Henry and the Ghost Train
  5. Henry Goes to the Hospital
  6. Thomas and the Pony Show
  7. Thomas and the Dinosaur
  8. Thomas and the Tiger
  9. Thomas Goes to School
  10. Thomas and the Station Cat
  11. James and The Fat Controller
  12. Thomas and the Prize Pig
  13. Tracking Thomas the Tank Engine and his Friends
  14. Thomas and the Lost Cat
  15. Percy the Seaside Train
  16. Thomas and the Giant
  17. Thomas and the Bad Dog
  18. Henry Pulls the Express
  19. Learn With Thomas
  20. A False Start for Duck
  21. Percy and the Postman
  22. Edward and the Bear
  23. Thomas the Tank Engine's European Word Book
  24. Down the Line with Thomas
  25. Tell the Time with Thomas
  26. Thomas Goes to Town
  27. Percy to the Rescue
  28. Thomas's ABC
  29. Thomas's Counting Book
  30. Thomas's Book of Colours
  31. Up and Down with Percy
  32. Famous Engines
  33. Bumper Colouring Book

Companion volumes

These books mainly feature the Island of Sodor, dealing with its history, geography and industry in far greater depth than could ever be discussed in the Railway Series stories themselves. However, The Thomas the Tank Engine Man, is a biography of Rev. W. Awdry and companion to the series.

  1. Twelve Happy Engines (W. Awdry, 1970)
  2. The Railway Series: Surprise Packet (W. Awdry, 1972)
  3. Railway Map of the Island of Sodor (W. Awdry, 1976)
  4. The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways (W. Awdry and G. Awdry, 1987)
  5. The Thomas the Tank Engine Man (B. Sibley, 1995)
  6. Sodor: Reading Between the Lines (C. Awdry, 2005)

Bad Days for Thomas

A series of books written to highlight rail safety. They were written partially due to Christopher Awdry's frustration at not being able to include a proper rail safety story in Thomas and the Great Railway Show.

  1. Bad Days for Thomas and his Friends
  2. More Bad Days for Thomas and his Friends

Mr. Perkins' Storytime

In this series of segments, Mr. Perkins reads the Railway Series stories. Each story is rewritten by Andrew Brenner and illustrated by Loraine Marshall.

  1. The Flying Kipper - (Santa's Little Engine DVD; US/UK/AUS)
  2. Trucks! - (The Thomas Way DVD; UK only/Whale of a Tale and Other Sodor Adventures DVD; UK only/Spills and Thrills DVD; US only)
  3. Thomas and Gordon - (Spills and Thrills DVD; UK/Wild Water Rescue and Other Engine Adventures DVD; US)
  4. Pop Goes the Diesel - (Trouble on the Tracks DVD; UK/US/AUS)
  5. Thomas and the Breakdown Train - (Tale of the Brave DVD; UK/AUS only/Engines to the Rescue DVD; US only)
  6. A Scarf for Percy - (The Christmas Engines DVD; US/UK/AUS)
  7. Thomas Goes Fishing - (Signals Crossed DVD; US/UK)
  8. Edward and Gordon - (Dinos and Discoveries DVD; UK/US/AUS)
  9. Toby's Tightrope - (Trouble on the Tracks DVD; UK/AUS only/Whale of a Tale and Other Sodor AdventuresDVD; US only)
  10. Gordon Goes Foreign - (Thomas' YouTube World Tour)
  11. Thomas' Train - (Railway Mischief DVD; UK/AUS only/Tales on the Rails DVD; US only)
  12. Henry and the Elephant - (Thomas' YouTube World Tour)
  13. Thomas Comes to Breakfast - (Thomas' YouTube World Tour)
  14. Thomas in Trouble - (Thomas' YouTube World Tour)
  15. Ghost Train - (Thomas' YouTube World Tour)
  16. Thomas and Bertie - (Thomas' YouTube World Tour)
  17. Percy and Harold - (Thomas' YouTube World Tour)
  18. Thomas, Terence and the Snow - (Thomas' YouTube World Tour)
  19. Sir Topham Hatt's Engines - (Thomas' YouTube World Tour)
  20. Trouble in the Shed - (Thomas' YouTube World Tour)


  • Nearly all of The Railway Series stories were based upon real-life events. As a life-long railway enthusiast, Wilbert Awdry was keen that his stories should be as realistic as possible. The engine characters were almost all based upon real classes of locomotives and some of the railways themselves were directly based upon real lines in the British Isles.
  • Awdry drew from railway literature such as C. Hamilton Ellis' The Trains We Loved and L. T. C. Rolt's Railway Adventure for some of his stories.
  • With the exception of William Middleton, through illustration errors, each illustrator of the Railway Series has drawn Thomas both with and without the dip in his running board.
  • According to The Thomas the Tank Engine Man, Awdry had no intention of writing more Railway Series books after 'Thomas the Tank Engine', but after hearing about letters sent saying from fans of the books, he was convinced to continue writing the series.
  • C. Reginald Dalby drew the advertisement for Railway Series books in the illustrations.
  • The dust jacket for the books published in 1965[1] - 1967[2] contained an advertisement for "Percy the Small Engine, brought to life by Meccano".
  • Prior to Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends being produced by Britt Allcroft in 1984, there were two attempts to adapt the Railway Series books to the television, both of which were cancelled.

In Other Languages

Language Title
Chinese 托马斯和朋友原著绘本
Japanese 汽車のえほん
Korean 토마스 원작 시리즈
Norwegian Togbok


From 1965 to 1967, Shuyū Shimizu lived in the UK with his family as a lecturer and international student at the Japanese Studies of Oriental Institute at the University of Oxford. One day he found the Railway Series books at an Oxford bookstore, purchased it for his son and they loved it. For seven years from April 1972, Shimizu taught English at Keio Yochisha at the request of his acquaintance Saburō Kuwabara. During this time they decided to translate the Railway Series. The Japanese translation rights were granted by Kaye & Ward through Charles E. Tuttle Co., a literary agent company. The Rev. W. Awdry was delighted to publish in Japan and sent a messageto Japanese readers. This message was published in the foreword message of The Three Railway Engines and the front flaps of 26 books.

On 10th November 1973, Poplar Publishing published the first three books and by November 1974, the first 15 books were published. The remaining 11 books were published between August 1980 and February 1981. The railway technical terms of these books were supervised by Motō Kuroiwa, the railway company owner. These original versions were discontinued around 2001.

From March 2005 to January 2006, the first 15 books were published to commemorate the 60th anniversary of The Railway Series. There have been "updates" such as expanding the size of the book, having the same character name as the television series and correcting old-fashioned phrases. After the first 15 publications, the remaining 11 books were scheduled to be published, but were cancelled. On 10th December 2010, the 26 books were published as new mini versions to commemorate the 65th anniversary of The Railway Series. On 20th July 2013, Thomas the Tank Engine: The Complete Collection was published to commemorate the 40th anniversary of The Railway Series in Japan.

When the television series began broadcasting in Japan on 4th October 1990, the Railway Series became even more popular. In 1992, 2005-06 and 2013-15, exhibitions of original artwork of the Railway Series, many sketches by Wilbert Awdry and the original models were held in Japan.